Gist of opinion
The opinion comes against a backdrop characterised by three negative scenarios within an economic crisis of colossal proportions.
A. Little progress has been made towards achieving the objectives of the Lisbon strategy.
B. An enormous crisis has hit the financial sector.
C. The results of the UN Copenhagen summit on climate change were inadequate.
Green economy-oriented industrial change will require a completely new understanding of growth and competitiveness. There must be a new approach to measuring economic and social progress. Industrial change and employment will only be compatible with sustainability targets if the EU and the world as a whole agree on a different vision of growth. The proposal made by the Commission on its 2020 strategy is insufficient.
The EESC is in favour of the democratic participation of the European public in the broad debate that must take place on the industrial change, its impact on the employment markets, its pace and the overall social repercussions. This is not about obstructing environmental policy but managing it in a socially sustainable manner.
The EU needs economic government within its institutions so as to make the European economy greener and generate sustainable jobs.
The new jobs will be generated by the private sector and, in particular, by SMEs. The role of the public sector will be to establish a stable and constructive framework that allows companies to optimise the transition towards a greener economy that performs better and is rich in sustainable employment. More specifically, the public sector plays an important part in the areas of education, training and research, as well as in promoting green technologies. That is why economic, social and environmental progress requires a healthy public sector. Furthermore, in order to safeguard the general interest it is going to be necessary to review the regulatory framework for the liberalised energy markets. In addition, the Member States should agree on a tax on speculative financial transactions; the receipts from this tax should be used to reduce public deficits, giving them more leeway, for instance, to finance education systems more effectively.
The EESC proposes establishing a dedicated European fund to support industrial change and, more specifically, research, development and the application of green technology. A solid industrial base will be indispensable if sustainable employment objectives are to be reached. Many jobs, even in the services sector, depend on the success of European industry. The EESC is of the view that it is up to the European institutions to secure a level playing field within the EU and as far as possible with its partners, to prevent relocations, or even the dismantling of entire sectors, from having a detrimental impact on employment and the environment.